Multi-million-pound deal is great news for worst of Wigan's forgotten historic buildings

King Street with many buildings including the Royal Court Theatre boarded up
King Street with many buildings including the Royal Court Theatre boarded up

Council chiefs will meet with representatives from Historic England this week to discuss the best way of using a multi-million-pound grant which was awarded at the weekend.

A total of £3.5m could be invested in restoring historic buildings and boosting cultural engagement in the borough thanks to a pair of successful heritage funding bids.

Wigan Council and Tyldesley-based community group, Driven, submitted applications to create Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) on King Street, Wigan, and Elliot Street in Tyldesley as part of a Historic England scheme. Both have been successful meaning, along with match funding from the town hall and businesses, the cash will be spent over the next four years to bring key historic buildings back into use.

Historic England’s HAZ scheme aims to secure lasting improvements to historic high streets and the communities who use them.

Leader of the council, Coun David Molyneux said: “We are extremely pleased that Historic England has agreed to invest such a large amount in our borough, which will help us to capitalise upon our rich local heritage and harness opportunities for economic growth and cultural engagement.

“Through continued work with our partners, this scheme paves the way for the improvement of King Street and Elliot Street in order to create more opportunities for our residents.”

The King Street project will support economic and cultural growth by repairing and restoring listed buildings, enabling them to be brought back into active use, and will provide opportunities for cultural engagement and education linked to the town’s heritage.

Over the next few months the council and building owners will work up the proposals with Historic England.

The Tyldesley project aims to engage with the owners of Top Chapel in order to bring it back into viable use, tackle parking issues, refurbish five vacant buildings and encourage businesses based in Conservation Areas to comply with shop front design criteria.

Coun Molyneux added: “The successful King Street bid also links with our long-term vision for the regeneration of the town centre.

“Our borough has very impressive architecture and heritage that gives it distinctiveness.

“We are committed to retaining this character so it is imperative that we continue to work with Historic England to ensure we can conserve and put it at the heart of our regeneration and growth plans.

“The funding also means that we can provide engagement opportunities for both residents and schools so they can fully appreciate our heritage.

“This work is still in development, but is another exciting prospect tying in with our recent commitment to make culture accessible to all.”

The announcement comes as the council continues working on its first ever Historic Environment Strategy, which will lay a foundation for the management and celebration of heritage sites across the borough over the next five years.

Coun Terry Halliwell, Wigan borough’s heritage champion, said: “We’re continuously looking at ways we can improve our historic buildings and look to secure external funding and these grants will go a long way in helping us to achieve our heritage goals.

“Wigan Borough’s buildings are beautiful and it’s down to us all to work together to ensure it remains that way.”

Speaking about the prospect of such a large investment in Tyldesley, ward councillor and cabinet member, Nazia Rehman, said: “It is absolutely fantastic news that Tyldesley is another step closer to receiving this money, which will have a huge positive impact on the local community.

“In line with The Deal, we aim to instil pride and empower our communities, so it’s great that Driven has been so proactive in submitting this bid. We will continue to support them throughout this process.”

Ian Tomlinson from Driven said: “We have been truly surprised by the level of support and endorsement we have received over that last few weeks while we have been working on the application.

“We would not have been able to submit the application without support from the local authority and we thank them for embracing The Deal and helping us to take ownership of our community.

“We are particularly honoured to have the support of Tyldesley Traders Group who share our values in developing the town for the benefit for all.”

Catherine Dewar, Regional director in the North West for Historic England, said: “High streets are right at the heart of our communities. It’s fantastic news for the people and businesses of Wigan that they will receive this boost to help them bring new life to this part of the town centre.

“Our high streets face many challenges, with some historic buildings underused or even empty, but with a little investment and imagination they can be transformed into vibrant places that attract new businesses and other new uses.

“Historic high streets have a crucial role to play in delivering economic growth and attractive environments in which we can live, work and play. Historic England is looking forward to working with the local community in Wigan on this exciting historic high street project.”

This week, Historic England will meet the council and building owners to discuss the funding in more detail.